Lazy start to the weekend, colourful crowd and some spectacular tennis – Perfect! After a hard week at work, sports zealots got what they deserved, thanks to Djokovic, Rafa & Co.
The high-octane Centre Court action by Spaniard Rafael Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovicensured the packed crowd at Qatar ExxonMobil Open got their quota of Goosebumps. Of course, those chilly winds off the desert may have tweaked those hair follicles a bit, but overall it was tennis trick, at its best.
The plot crystal clear, Rafa keen on conserving energy for important matches, treated the unseeded Russian Andrey Kuznetsov as a mere hurdle.
In a jiffy, he raced to a 3-0 advantage in the first set. ‘Well begun is half done’ they say and that’s precisely what Nadal did, shy the seventh game that saw a short rally and acouple of extravagant strokes and drop-shots. A few of those anxious ‘Rolex moments’, serves, returns and volleys and the green scoreboard read: 6-3.
There was a bit of a detour for him in the second set, though. As unfortunately for Rafa, Andrey had warmed up considerably enough to fit into the ‘I am no pushover’ category and then, of course, he had started moving freely across the court and up to the net.
The lean Russian had started to look rather mean. He effectively neutralized Rafa's power-play and broke him in the fourth game. Nadal, however, wasn't keen on sitting back and soon it was even stevens with 3-3 on the board.
The set was dragged on for a while before the drama culminated in the 11th game when Kuznetsov after a long-drawn rally finished with an ‘A’ (read advantage) on his report card. What’s more, his appeal against the line-call earned him the game (6-5) and soon he was breathing down the Spaniard’s neck with a 7-5 set victory.
The last set had its ups and downs with the two players breaking each other’s serves, but Nadal performed the trick at the right juncture. He broke Kuznetsov in the ninth to go 5-4 up and then retained his serve to win the set and the 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
But, Nadal gave Kuznetsov enough credit. “It's true that I missed the serve more times than what I wanted. But I played only a real bad game with my serve at 4-3 in the second set.
“The rest, his return was amazing and he was playing so good. I think the level of him tonight has been really amazing. I think I played a great third set, because if not, I will not be in the semi-final.”
Unfortunately, for that odd fan who failed catch a glimpse of Nadal’s match with an “oh no” writ large on his face, Djokovic didn’t add any spices to his game. He simply won.
The eight-seed Argentine Leonardo Mayer may have offered some resistance, but that was effectively silenced by a superior player with a ‘by the book’ 6-3, 7-5 victory. A break in the fourth game of the first set was enough for him to cruise into the second set.
Luckily for the fans the second set was dragged a bit with Leonardo capitalising on a few break points. But they only prolonged the impending doom that caught up with him in time, albeit a little late.
Maybe at a later date, Djokovic decides to play to the gallery, but that’s up to the time. Surprisingly enough the Serb said: “It was a tough match for me - the toughest for me in this tournament.”
Illya Marchenko moves on
In the first match of the day, unseeded Ukrainian Illya Marchenko continued his dream run, toppling seeds en route for the last four. In the first round he had packed off defending champion and fourth seed David Ferrer of Spain and on Thursday he got the better of seventh seed Frenchman Jermy Chardy 6-3, 7-6.
The Ukranian next plays another big name, massive one at that. He is up against crowd-favourite Nadal.
UKR Illya Marchenko bt (7) FRA Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-6(3)
(2) ESP Rafael Nadal bt RUS Andrey Kuznetsov 6-3, 5-7, 6-4
(1) SRB Novak Djokovic bt (8) ARG Leonardo Mayer 6-3, 7-5
(4) GER Philipp Petzschner / AUT Alexander Peya bt (1) NED Jean-Julien Rojer / ROU Horia Tecau 7-6(5), 6-2
(3) ESP Feliciano Lopez / ESP Marc Lopez bt (2) GBR Jamie Murray / BRA Bruno Soares 3-6, 6-3, 10-5
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